With the 2013 college football season rapidly approaching, fans are craving any and every taste of what is to come in what should be an invigorating year. As we inch closer to the action kicking off on August 29, I'll release schedule analysis for a new ACC school every other day. For now, let's take a look at the Maryland Terrapins:
Aug. 31 - Florida International
Sept. 7 - Old Dominion
Sept. 14 - at Connecticut
Sept. 21 - vs. West Virginia (Baltimore)
Sept. 28 - Open
Oct. 5 - at Florida State
Oct. 12 - Virginia
Oct. 19 - at Wake Forest
Oct. 26 - Clemson
Nov. 2 - Open
Nov. 9 - Syracuse
Nov. 16 - at Virginia Tech
Nov. 23 - Boston College
Nov. 30 - at N.C. State
Schedule obtained from the official website of Maryland athletics
The good news for the Terps is that they certainly have the potential to win all but one of their home games this season. The bad news: only six of their matchups will be held in Byrd Stadium.
Maryland opens up its 2013 season with four straight contests against non-conference foes, none of whom even sniffed the preseason Top 25 in the recently released coaches poll. That bodes well for third-year coach Randy Edsall, as he will be searching for his first winning season in College Park.
It's hard to imagine a team not named Clemson or Florida State representing the Atlantic Division in the conference championship game at season's end, but there's still plenty of opportunity for Maryland to find its way into the top half of the standings.
Third time is a charm for Edsall, as QB C.J. Brown serves as an upgrade from the second, third, fourth and fifth-string signal-callers who took snaps last season. An easy non-conference slate provides confidence for Brown, who thrives on his way to a 4-0 start and 5-1 record at home.
Catching passes from someone other than Shawn Petty, sophomore Stefon Diggs is a human highlight reel and becomes Maryland's first 1,000-yard receiver since Torrey Smith. Brandon Ross also picks up where he left off last November and strings together some 100-yard games on the ground, making for a balanced Terrapins offense.
The losses of players such as A.J. Francis and Joe Vellano are cancelled out as the personnel becomes more comfortable during its second year in defensive coordinator Brian Stewart's 3-4 scheme.
Furthermore, the continuity that comes as a result of all nine assistant coaches returning shortens the learning curve for this young roster.
An overall favorable schedule, combined with team improvements and a lack of key injuries, helps make for a nine-win season as Maryland exits the ACC.
Brown's durability becomes an issue for the third time in his career, and the Terps once again resort to placing backups under center. The Terrapins slip up in non-conference play and already have a handful of losses after being blown out in Tallahassee.
Diggs is ineffective without a quality QB, and Wes Brown's suspension comes back to bite the team's running back depth. Things only get worse on the defensive side, where Maryland lost too many experienced players and suffers a drop-off from the previous year's No. 21 defense.
Every team in the ACC finds an additional incentive in beating the Big Ten-bound Terrapins, and 2013 turns into yet another four-win season for Edsall. For the third consecutive year, Maryland falls short of bowl eligibility.
This should be Maryland's best team since Edsall's arrival in College Park. While the Terps won't finish in the top two of their division, there's no reason to believe they have no shot at finishing third.
This team needs to stay healthy and has to take advantage of its first four games. Those two factors, coupled with a much-improved offense, would lead to a minimum of six wins for Maryland. If the injury bug bites again and the season gets off to a rocky start, then expect to see more of the same in 2013.
Also check out schedule analysis for the Syracuse Orange
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